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Biomedical Innovation Fund Awards $200,000 to U.Va. Projects Benefiting Human Health

The University of Virginia’s Biomedical Innovation Fund has awarded $200,000 to promising U.Va. research projects, advancing discoveries that could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Created in 2008 by the Ivy Foundation, the fund has awarded a total of just over $1 million to University research collaborations with the potential to yield leading-edge diagnostics and treatments for a range of human health problems.

“The dynamic partnership allows the University to make critical early-stage investments in new technologies that attract high-quality external partners and transform health care,” said Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research.

A record number of researchers and clinicians throughout the University applied for funding in 2012, with 28 proposals coming from U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Medical Center. Finalists presented their projects to the Ivy Biomedical Innovation Review Board late last year, with awards made earlier this month.

“The quality of the science in the funded proposals is outstanding and offers the promise of improvements in patient care for many years to come,” said Dr. Christopher M. Kramer, a member of the fund’s review and governing boards and of the Ivy Foundation board. Kramer is Ruth C. Heede Professor of Cardiology, professor of radiology and director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Center at U.Va.

The following projects were each awarded $50,000 to further research and development:

  • Fight Fire with Fire: Developing a Micavibrio Aeruginosavorous as a Living Antibiotic
    Assistant professors Martin Wu, Biology, and Ian J. Glomski, Microbiology, and F. Heath Damron, a postdoctoral fellow in the Microbiology Department, are exploring the use of a predatory “vampire bacteria” as a therapy against a highly drug-resistant bacterium that frequently causes pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients.
  • Augmenting Erythropoiesis
    Dr. Thomas J. Braciale, professor of pathology and microbiology and director of the Beirne B. Carter Center for Immunology Research, is developing a new therapeutic to stimulate red blood cell production in patients living with anemia, including cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, the elderly and some diabetics.
  • A Method to Assay and Block Transfer RNA Fragments
    Dr. Anindya Dutta, Byrd Professor and chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, is developing a test that will easily identify a patient’s levels of several specific segments of transfer RNA, known as transfer RNA fragments, that have been found to be associated with blood, lung and potentially other cancers.
  • Pre-Animal Development of a Near Infrared Spectroscopy Device
    Dr. Robert H. Thiele, a critical care anesthesiologist with a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. James Isbell, a thoracic surgeon who is completing a critical care fellowship at U.Va. this year, are developing a device that surgeons and specialists can use to determine the health of mucosal tissue during major operations and critical illness.

Thiele said the Biomedical Innovation Fund award will be essential to furthering his team’s project, a joint effort between the departments of Anesthesiology and Surgery.

“Clinicians interested in biomedical device development typically have a difficult time obtaining external funding,” Thiele said. “The Biomedical Innovation Fund award will allow us to construct a workable prototype in the setting of a teaching institution and, if all goes well, move directly toward commercialization.”

For information about the Biomedical Innovation Fund, click here. For other translational research funding opportunities at U.Va., click here.

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